Reservation Dogs – Season 3 Episode 3 “Deer Lady” Recap & Review

Deer Lady

In Reservation Dogs Season 3 Episode 3, Deer Lady’s backstory is revealed when she encounters Bear at a diner and invites him over to share some pie. We’re shown her tragic past, beginning with being taken from her home to a Native Boarding School. There, nuns cut the boys’ hair, force the kids to eat gruel, and speak in gibberish. They mistreat the kids, despite making them sing hymns about love.

Deer Lady feels alone until Koda, a boy who has been there for a year, reaches out to her. He advises her to stay away from the cruel Sister Jensen and Mr. Minor, whom he labels an evil wolf. One night, the sisters take Koda away from his bed as he screams. She sneaks behind them to find Mr. Minor and the nuns taking him into a room where they abuse him.

Sister Jensen catches her and chases her as she runs away from the school. Deer Lady calls for help in the forest and finds a deer with glowing eyes, who offers to help her run fast. This is how she became the spirit she is today. Men go looking for Sister Jensen, resigned to the fact that the girl will die. But it’s the nun they find dead.

At the diner, Bear glimpses Deer Lady’s hooves. Recognizing who she is, he fears she’s going to kill him. But she has no plans to. In fact, he reminds her of Koda. Rather than kill Bear, she takes him along to the site of the old boarding school. While she goes inside, he stays in the car to charge his phone and call his mom to reassure her that he’ll be home soon.

A man answers Deer Lady’s knock at the door. It’s Mr. Minor, the man Koda called a wolf. He lets her inside and ponders his past with her. While he holds pictures of his (and her) time at the boarding school, Deer Lady stabs him in the back with an antler until he dies.

With her clothes splattered with blood, she gets back in the car and takes Bear back to Okern. They thank each other before he asks if she killed somebody. She responds that she killed a human wolf. But Bear? He’s going to be okay. He won’t become his dad, thanks to how his mom raised him. Before parting, she reminds Bear to keep smiling, repeating Koda’s own words to her, “They can’t stop you from smiling.”


The Episode Review

This episode of Reservation Dogs pulled out all the stops to deliver a poignant memorial to those Native children in American history who endured hardships at the hands of human wolves. It not only reminds us of a very real, very sordid history; additionally, “Deer Lady” provides a moving origin story for the titular spirit that respects her history and her reason for killing.

She’s a fascinating character, with the drive to protect and help others just like Koda did for her. Her story is a reminder that the smiles and the resilience of Indigenous people are not a mark of a happy past, but rather of how much they have overcome.

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You can look forward to a full season review when this show ends!

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